New Species of Human found! #HomoNaledi #Evolution

Amazing discovery by scientists in a south african cave: a new species of human, perhaps one of our most primitive ancestors! Scientists are still unsure about the age of the fossils, but they are predicting somewhere between 2.5 million and 2.8 million years old! The bones had been discovered nearly two years ago, but the work is out this week in the open access (yay) journal eLife.

A reconstruction of the skull and hand of Homo naledi, a human ancestor discovered in South Africa. Credit Naashon Zalk for The New York Times

A reconstruction of the skull and hand of Homo naledi, a human ancestor discovered in South Africa. Credit Naashon Zalk for The New York Times

The New York Times has a nice summary:

The new hominin species was announced on Thursday by an international team of more than 60 scientists led by Lee R. Berger, an American paleoanthropologist who is a professor of human evolution studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The species name, H. naledi, refers to the cave where the bones lay undisturbed for so long; “naledi” means “star” in the local Sesotho language.

In two papers published this week in the open-access journal eLife, the researchers said that the more than 1,550 fossil elements documenting the discovery constituted the largest sample for any hominin species in a single African site, and one of the largest anywhere in the world. Further, the scientists said, that sample is probably a small fraction of the fossils yet to be recovered from the chamber. So far the team has recovered parts of at least 15 individuals.

“With almost every bone in the body represented multiple times, Homo naledi is already practically the best-known fossil member of our lineage,” Dr. Berger said.

The Brontosaurus is back! #NeverForgotten

From Wired:

Scientists Say It’s Time to Reinstate the Brontosaurus

REMEMBER PLUTO? TINY lonely rock orbiting the sun at the edge of the solar system? And then, in 2006, researchers summarily defrocked the little world of its status as a planet. Poof! Gone.

This kind of thing has happened before. Many decades ago, paleontologists similarly decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the existence of the beloved Brontosaurus. Instead, they said that the noble thunder lizard was just an Apatosaurus. Poof.

But mourn the Brontosaurus no longer! A team of heroes may have rescued it from paleontological purgatory. By cross-referencing the digitized bones from hundreds of long-necked cousins, a team of European scientists now says that they’ve identified enough unique anatomical details to reinstate the Brontosaurus at the head of its own genus. That’s not all. “The real importance of this paper is this is the first time that this group of sauropods have been analyzed in a big fashion,” says Mark Norell, the top paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Continue reading

Video: Rediscovering Spinosaurus, the HUGE swimming dinosaur! #science

University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno describes Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a predator of the Cretaceous Period that had adapted to life in water 95 million years ago. Sereno, his UChicago colleague Nizar Ibrahim, and an international team of associates announced their discovery in the journal Science online, at the Science Express website, on 11 September.

Spinosaurus: BIGGER than T. Rex AND a swimmer!?!?! #science

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National Geographic reports on the discovery of the semi-aquatic Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, published in Science.

Floating like a crocodile to stalk prey, the 50-foot-long (15.2 meters) predator bore a massive sail on its back that would have risen from the water like a shark’s fin. The carnivore probably ate fish, ancient crocodiles, and anything else afloat.

“It was the biggest carnivorous dinosaur, butSpinosaurus wasn’t a land animal,” says University of Chicago paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, a National Geographic Society Emerging Explorer and lead author of the new report. “This was a creature adapted to life in the water.”

David Waltham and paleoclimatology support man-made climate change #3simplereasons

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David Waltham writing for The Conversation does a great job explaining paleoclimatology, and how it supports the idea of man-made climate change. Paleoclimatology uses fossils to study Earth’s past climates, and provides strong evidence that carbon-dioxide levels are linked with global temperatures. Check out his article, and below are the three simple reasons put forth by Waltham that man-made climate change is real.

1. Evidence written in stone

A sedimentary record covering half a billion years shows us exactly what we would expect to see if climate modellers have done their sums right. Fossil and chemical traces in rocks indicate that warm periods in Earth’s history are associated with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and quantitative studies show that this correlation is, if anything, even stronger than predicted.

2. Simple calculations

The simple paleoclimate example may not nail the case for a worryingly strong link between carbon dioxide and temperature, but it is good supporting data. What is most important, however, is that this evidence is hard to refute

3. Counter arguments are unconvincing

If different researchers using different methods nevertheless come up with more or less the same answer, perhaps they are onto something.

New dinosaur, Mercuriceratops, had some sick headgear! #frill

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A new dinosaur has been discovered and reported in the journal Naturwissenschaften (The Science of Nature, also the coolest journal name EVER). the new dino is part of the chasmosaurine family and has been given the name, Mercuriceratops. For reference, think about the well-known triceratops, but with a lot more frill. Literally, this new dino has a neck guard and head-gear like no other. The neck protrusion is large and wing-like, which is why the dinosaur was named after the ‘winged’ roman god Mercury (MERCURI-ceratops). Pretty awesome all around! News reporting and illustrations at the Daily Digest news. And the science abstract with lots of jargon that I could not understand here.

“The butterfly-shaped frill, or neck shield, of Mercuriceratops is unlike anything we have seen before,” said co-author Dr. David Evans, curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum. “Mercuriceratops shows that evolution gave rise to much greater variation in horned dinosaur headgear than we had previously suspected.”

Mercuriceratops is believed to have been around 20 feet long and would have weighed about two tons. It lived about 77 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. Sporting a parrot-like beak and horn protrusions above its eyes, it would have been an herbivorous dinosaur.